Best known as a reformed theologian, professor, and Christian apologist (he went on tour debating Christopher Hitchens), in Evangellyfish, Doug Wilson turns his cunning insight toward contemporary American mega-church evangelicalism with witty prose and comical satire.
Evangellyfish is a story of the dysfunctional life of pastor Chad Lester in particular, and much that is wrong with evangelicalism in general – especially large, mega-church evangelicalism’s emphasis on church as a production, and faith as a personal journey of discovery (without all that emphasis on sin, repentance, blood, atonement, justification, etc.).
The strengths of this novel are twofold. First, Wilson writing is very engaging and funny. Anyone who has spent time among us evangelical Christians will find much to laugh about.
Many Americans have complained of too many hellfire and damnation sermons in their past, but Bradford was one of the 112 individuals in our generation who had actually heard one.
Second, sadly, this book would be pure comedy if it wasn’t so true to real life situations. For each of the great dysfunctions either with Camel Creek mega-church and the scandal and sins of its pastor and staff, I could think of specific churches or pastors that fit the satire perfectly. Don’t get me wrong, I have some background in a mega-church. I don’t think it is inherently wrong to have a large flock. I think there are some real strengths that many mega-churches contribute to the kingdom. Nevertheless, the more the church becomes an institution that mirrors the world and it’s marketing, there is a tendency for the church to become institutionalized and worldly (yes, this can happen in the smallest churches as well, it’s just that the mega-churches have the budget and resources to magnify their worldliness to a much greater degree).
In conclusion, I enjoyed this book and Wilson’s indirect critiques of the current state of Evangelicalism. There were times when it was a bit hard to follow the plot, but Wilson’s witticisms made for an engaging read. Rather than focusing almost exclusively on the American mega-church, Wilson could have probably done a better job casting a broader satirical net on Evangelicalism.